Debate: “Do Jeans Actually Suck?”

Britney and Justin Denim

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There are two types of people in this world: Those who love jeans, and those who pretty much don’t. I learned this after initiating a conversation in our Slack channel with the seemingly innocent “I miss wearing jeans” following weeks of stretch waistbands. I was met with so much backlash about the “denim cage formerly known as ‘jeans’” that I was affronted. And I call them my friends!!!

It quickly became clear that, out of everyone on Team MR, Mallory Rice is the eminent scholar of Anti-Jean thought. And, like any good high school debate student who has long held on to her days of contentiousness, I decided it was time to take it to the stands. Below you’ll find a debate between the two of us that started hot and ended warm. I guess I like Mallory too much to get TOO spirited, huh.

Read on and stake a claim for your team in the comments.


Amalie: Alright, are you ready for The Great Denim Debate? We’ll structure this like a Public Forum debate (shout out to my nonexistent life in high school!), which means each side will open with the case on why they are Pro or Con when it comes to jeans. Do you want to open?

Mallory: I think as the seasoned debater you should begin [continues to furiously jot down notes]

Amalie: Hahah okay I shall. Off the record, my case is much less predicated on stats and evidence than it is…. just biased. But I’ll do my best!

[Mallory note: Rookie mistake—Amalie did not wait for me to agree to this statement being off the record.]

Amalie denim
Amalie, resplendent in head-to-Blundstone denim.

Amalie: I miss my jeans so much. Sometimes I just look at them in their neat stacks and think about all the different ways I would be wearing them during this spring weather that Edith correctly labeled “New York’s most sparkling spring.” Jeans are the tabula rasa of fashion! The blank slate upon which you can build an outfit! The perfect neutral. They have hold and starchiness to make you feel like you’re really getting capital-D Dressed, and can be moved in so many creative directions with shoes, tops, jackets… I believe it’s actually criminal to be anti-jean.

Amalie: I open the floor to the Con team to present their case.

Mallory: [Strides confidently onto the debate floor wearing only cotton underwear.] Oh no!… [Wakes up panting and realizes this was just a bad dream. Looks down and is relieved to find that I am actually wearing soft sweatshorts, an appropriate garment for life indoors.]

Mallory, resplendent in… pants that are not denim.

Mallory: Amalie! Thinking about you missing your jeans upsets me. I’ve seen the kinds of outfits you turn out when jeans are involved, and I’d never want to stand in the way of that. However, I strongly feel that jeans are irrelevant, if not forever, definitely for now. And I think now is the perfect time to reevaluate our relationship with them. Jeans are for going places—for casual birthday gatherings and horse-lassoing parties, things like that. At this moment, we need to be honest with ourselves: We’ve got nowhere to be. Denying this essential fact could lead to madness or, at the very least, an unnecessary dent near your belly-button that too-tight jeans always leave behind. The dent leads me to my next point: There is enough discomfort in our lives right now, our clothes should relieve the burden, not exacerbate it. If you’re jonesing for a workwear fix, Carhartt pants will do you better than your true blues. And if you’ve reallllly gotta have your denim, I recommend taking it in small doses, via a 69us mask, an exercise-appropriate hat, or a cute lil scrunchie a la Mikaela.

Amalie: I’ll make us relax, now is time for the CROSSFIRE where we ask each other pointed questions. I’ll start.

Amalie: I have to ask: Is there any part of you that misses even the promise of going places that’s associated with wearing jeans? Don’t you ever feel when you put them on that they’re worn with intention?

Mallory: Oh, for sure! But of all the things I miss right now, my lower-level corset is not one of them. I’d rather lounge around and reminisce while wearing something with drawstrings.

Mallory: Crossfire question: Can you list the top 3 materials/fabric that you associate with comfort?

Mallory: And don’t you dare try to interpret comfort in a poetic way!

Amalie: Hmm… French terry cotton, cashmere, and probably faux-shearling. BUT! Comfort is what I’m thinking about in my day-to-day here at home, when I’m not seeing anyone and certainly not being seen. When I am doing both of those things, though, nothing feels better to me than jeans! There’s an undeniable cool factor. And I miss feeling cool, now more than ever. The coolest I’ve felt during quarantine is when I cosplayed as Samantha Jones for a Zoom party and that wasn’t even on brand for me.

Amalie: Okay, so I have to know: What makes you so opposed to jeans in a general sense? I think I have seen you in jeans maybe a handful of times at most. Is it still the comfort argument?

Mallory: I definitely find them constricting, but I also think I wore them more when I had less fluency in other pants at my disposal—fun knits, dressy trousers, etc. Once I started wearing those, I had less desire to buy jeans, especially because I find the fit of denim to be the fussiest of all pant options—they’re either right or wrong, and there’s very little wiggle room.

Mallory: Here’s something of an olive branch for you — 1. What are the most comfortable jeans out there? 2. What’s your secret for finding a pair that fits?

Amalie: I have a multi-faceted response to this. The first thing I’ll say is that I have only ever found one pair of jeans that was perfect and they were orange tab Levis that I ordered from a vintage shop online, and they just so happened to fit me like a glove. They also did that magical thing that only some denim does, where it’s starchy but super comfortable. BUT as far as jeans I have purchased new, I have a few faves: This pair is the closest pair of denim I have to feeling like I’m not at all wearing denim. But also not wearing jeggings.

Amalie: Remember jeggings? I also have a pair similar to these that I got from Tibi in a size up from my usual, and I wear them all summer long

Amalie: And, it must be said, I bought a pair of FEELs a few years ago, and the hype is real. I had them tailored (if you find a pair that fits well and you love them, take them to a really good tailor), and they’re now perfect

Amalie: I care a LOT about denim which is why I spend on it. I don’t really have a lot of pant alternatives in my closet. I wear my denim until it’s completely worn through, which for some of these really good pairs will be never. My secret for finding a pair that fits is making sure that it’s comfortable in the hips and waist. I’ve convinced myself to buy too many that have been a little tight in the hips because I liked the shape they gave me, only to have my hips hurt after a long day of walking. Once you find a pair that fits you like a glove there, a good tailor can rip the seams and make them into the best jeans you have in your closet. End rant.

Amalie: Is there at least one pair or brand of denim that you’re devoted to?

Mallory: OK, before I answer your question I just want to say that this conversation has already revealed a few things to me. 1. I have unresolved issues from jeans never fitting me properly as a teenager. 2. These days I only enjoy shopping for jeans if they are vintage, because it feels more like a fun thrift-store hunt and less of a slog through the offerings of a brand that doesn’t make stuff for my bod.

Amalie: I definitely agree with that latter point. My only tip for buying thrift jeans or vintage jeans (which is kind of a no-brainer and I’m sure you know) is that any boutique making you spend above $100–realistically like $70, even on a pair of really hard to find Levi’s or Orange Tabs–is gouging you!!

Mallory: Oh, yeah totally, vintage denim prices can be insane. To answer your question on pairs/brands… Right now, I have one pair of jeans that I wear (lol), and they are vintage Levi’s I found in the California desert (a mirage????? jk). I got them tailored to be a little cropped, and I think I might go a little shorter yet. A few years ago, when I wore jeans more, I exclusively wore Acne for no other reason than they were always long enough. I will say! The “denim that got away” is a pair from Carleen that I tried on at a sample sale but were too tight to button. This was last summer and I still think about them. They were kind of like these, but the patch was just another shade of denim.

Mallory: Here’s something I’d like for you to debunk—I think part of me feels like jeans are just “phoning it in”… and maybe that’s why I like the Carleen pair, because they feel special. What are your tricks for keeping an outfit with jeans from being the wrong kind of simple?

Amalie: I’m kind of half with you and half not! Sometimes I do feel like jeans are phoning it in, but in the right way! They consistently look good, and not to sound like a broken record, they have a cool sensibility to them without being “effortful.” Most of the time when I wear them, I do feel like they’re the perfect canvas upon which (lol) you can build an outfit. They ground something that’s floaty, frilly or overly feminine, and they elevate (kinda) an otherwise boring sweater or sweatshirt. Obviously accessorization (not a word) is key to me here. The less intuitive the better. I learned from the best.

Amalie: What’s an outfit that you feel most “you” in if it’s not jeans?

Mallory: I think my Platonic ideal of an outfit is Phoebe Philo’s fashion show uniform. I can’t think of one particular outfit in the world that I’ve spent more time looking at. I think it presents a contrast that I like more: a soft sweater and a dressier pant paired with sneakers and a pretty undone beauty look. Why is that… maybe because it looks sharper but every aspect of it is more comfortable?

Amalie: It is also like the perfect “I’m an executive editor at a cool fashion digital media brand” uniform. It’s just right for you. I guess my question is, where does one find those “dressy pants” anyway??

Mallory: Not so dissimilar to jeans, I think it’s a matter of finding a brand that’s consistently cut for you. On the cheaper side, I used to buy suit pants from Topshop a lot. I also love to buy them at vintage stores or via The RealRealStella McCartney and Marni have never done me wrong and SM pants on The RealReal are almost always deeply discounted.

Mallory: One thing I will say about the “bosslady in jeans” thing that actually disproves my own point is that this outfit of Leandra’s is one of my favorite things I’ve seen her wear and probably the most likely ensemble of hers that I’d carbon copy onto my person.

Why do you think it works?

Amalie: Ahh, yes, I remember this one!! The long hem and baggy pant leg is so right. And back when life was normal, those black Adidas shoes were having a little renaissance. I think what makes it so good is kind of what I spoke to above—about the marriage of the unexpected, maybe? We have a very ladylike cardi on top—like, dinner with my great aunt style—which is then paired with a lower half that could be skating on Venice Beach right now. So many multitudes in one look. And they don’t war with each other. For you, it’s not exactly those labels (lol), but I do feel like your style has these pretty different component parts that mesh with each other to create a whole?

Mallory: For sure.

Mallory: OK, I always (er, have once) described my style as “Francoise Hardy googles skateboarding”—can you pick out an outfit with jeans for me that you think communicates this???

Mallory: If you do I will both consider laying down my sword and be forever grateful

Amalie: Found it

Amalie: lmao jk

Mallory: lol how dare u Amalie

Amalie: Tbh I’ve had that photo pulled up since the start of this story, was waiting for the right moment

Mallory: Lol just waiting to unleash

Mallory: Like me with my Roxane Gay tweet (hold pls)

Mallory: Been saving this for you for a week

Amalie: HAHAHA

Amalie: I saw that on Twitter and I was like…. I have a feeling I will see this again.

Amalie: I’m going to forever be hunting for a photo that embodies the above. Jane Birkin with an edge.

Mallory: Well, you can just link me to some items that you think will make an outfit with that vibe. That’s what I’m asking for, really. Hehe.

Amalie: hahaha sometimes I need a helping hand thank you

Amalie: (pulling together some options)

Amalie: Hello hi I have returned. My secret is that I love personal shopping more than anything in the world, but I never try to steal Eliz’s thunder. Anway, jeans:

Amalie: Nobody’s trying to do anything other than light wash rn let’s be honest!!!

Amalie: Cardigans for your multitudes:

Amalie: Also I keep going back to Doen to help stretch my imagination of what a more feminine top or blouse could do for me. I’m almost ready to pull the trigger.

Amalie: (Okay I’m done)

Mallory: Those AGOLDE Lana Low Rise Vintage Straight Jeans are so exactly what I would like to have. I’m beside myself.

Mallory: Can I make a non-denim outfit for you and we can entertain calling a truce?

Amalie: Yes!!

Amalie: I oftentimes do not understand non-denim outfits and worry they don’t look right on me so I’m ready to be shown otherwise!!!

Mallory: OK, obvs I know your style generally, but can you give me a line like “Francoise Hardy googles skateboarding” to guide me in the fancy-pants dept?

Amalie: Hmm wow sometimes I have truly no idea how to classify my own style

Amalie: I don’t know what it is and it never feels cohesive??

Mallory: Fiona Apple leaves Venice for Colorado Springs??? Kacey Musgraves wanders into the Paloma Wool pop-up?

Amalie: Hahahaha I had like… Connecticut mom lets loose at a Stevie Nicks concert but that’s not right.

Amalie: I vote Fiona.

Mallory: OK great. Back with you shortly

[Fetch the Bolt Cutters hold music]

Mallory: OK here are some concepts for you….

Mallory: Look 1:

Mallory: Look 2:

Mallory: And here is a wild card that you should feel free to reject:

Mallory: OK, one last thing, not seasonally appropriate anymore but for a fall weekend in CO? Full Rochas, go nuts:

Amalie: Upset that you sent me these because now I want to buy

Mallory: I feel like you really need to get the cardigan and the denim J at least. Not sure how Fiona or Colorado any of this is, but I do feel it is Ü

Amalie: You’ve fully tempted me!! And maybe someday when we meet again in the Man Repeller office I can give you a hug in my faux-fur cuffed cardigan. But I’ll probably still be wearing jeans. If I need to have a closing argument–they call this ‘Final Focus’ in Public Forum debate–I’d say that I plainly see the negatives of jeans, but I think they’re too much a part of my personal style DNA to sacrifice. They’re as essential to me as contact lenses! Without which I’d be extremely visually impaired. The Jeans Team rests their case.

Mallory: Amalie, I look forward to seeing you at the MR office so much that you could be wearing a full wizard costume made of patchwork denim and it would not distract me from the happiness of seeing you again IRL. In terms of jeans, here’s where I’m landing: Perhaps quitting them cold turkey is an overcorrection, but I do think this time of WFH has highlighted a number of things in our daily lives that we were possibly overdoing, or that we were doing on autopilot and not really being served by (see: a time-consuming makeup routine, excessive air travel, all manner of food wastefulness, etc etc.). My position is that jeans, while they may not deserve total banishment, have revealed themselves to be better players in a supporting role, somewhere in the realm of their similarly impactful-yet-impractical partners in crime, the high heel. I hereby rest my case and accept the very real possibility that almost everyone is going to disagree with me. Thank you, Amalie, this has been a pleasure.

Mallory: Anyway, how do we finish this? A complicated handshake?

Amalie: Very ‘Parent Trap’ handshake, yes. I’ll accept nothing less.


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